Ken Blanchard, the Oro Valley resident who seven years ago, initiated the town’s Bag-a-Thon food drive, has packed up and moved to Tempe after being promoted within the financial company Edward Jones.
But the Bag-a-Thon isn’t going anywhere.
Blanchard began the now well-known food drive, donating all collections to Interfaith Community Services to help feed hungry families. Since then, the drive has collected and donated more than 230,000 pounds of food during its operation. It has continued to grow under Blanchard’s leadership, capped off this year with a record 88,546 pounds of food, exceeding Blanchard’s goal of 75,000 pounds. The drive brought in about 70,000 pounds last year.
“His commitment to the Town of Oro Valley is immeasurable,” said Mayor Satish Hiremath, a long-time friend of Blanchard’s. “Tempe is going to gain a valuable resident.”
Blanchard, who says the drive’s results are the culmination of area schools, individuals, and community groups, is happy to have seen the important event blossom to what it is now.
“You can’t imagine who faces challenges, and you realize day by day it can happen to any one of us,” Blanchard said. “When somebody goes in and gets a box that lasts a month, and they have a family, and you find out some families are still living in their car, that pulls at your heartstrings.”
With Blanchard’s departure, the drive will be taken over by 25-year Edward Jones employee Peggy Klein, who works out of Oro Valley. She has helped Blanchard with the drive the last three years.
“I’ve always known there would be the chance of him taking a job in Edward Jones’ home office,” said Klein. “He never wanted this drive not to happen though. He felt so strongly about it from day one.”
Klein expects the drive to continue smoothly under her watch.
“I’m excited to take it over this year,” she said. “It’s been well-run for seven years, and it’s not something we’re starting over on. I think it will be a natural progression.”
The drive runs from Oct. 16– Nov. 9 each year. In addition to the holidays, the economy continues to make things tougher on families, Klein said.
“There truly are families that lose jobs, and the only thing that keeps them going is a box of food,” said Klein. “You can’t even put that into words. So, when you realize all of this coming in is at least going to do something, it’s a special feeling. The results are wonderful. It will knock your socks off seeing the mounds of food that we collect. You just can’t describe it until you see it.”
Before leaving, Blanchard thanked the public, town staff, council, and Interfaith Community Services during a town hall council meeting.
“This isn’t an Edward Jones thing, it’s a community thing,” he said. “I couldn’t have been prouder raising my family in a community like this.”